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We have written more than once in our blog about the need for people to update their estate plans regularly. We get questions from people sometimes about whether the law really changes enough to justify estate plan updates. This week, we answer that question with a few examples of legislative changes in law that occurred in 2016 and sum of the proposed changes that we expect the Indiana legislature to enact in 2017.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed at least eight separate pieces of Indiana legislation in 2016 that refer to the Indiana Probate Code, which is the set of laws governing the administration of deceased people’s estates; the Indiana Trust Code, which governs most aspects of Indiana trusts; and the Indiana Power of Attorney Act, under which all powers of attorney are authorized were established.. Some of the topics that those enactments address include:

  • inheritance taxes on estates of people who died before 2013
  • management of a deceased or disabled person’s Internet accounts (including access to websites, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) in estates, trusts, guardianships, and through powers of attorney
  • guardianship of a minor or disabled person
  • real estate partition (forced real estate sales by partial owners of real estate)
  • fees charged by county clerks
  • legislative studies of the Probate Code
  • government purchases and sales of goods and services
  • tax-deferred investment accounts for disabled people
  • Cemetery perpetual care funds
  • disposal (burial or cremation) of a deceased person’s remains
  • funeral planning declarations

Many changes to the Indiana probate Code, Trust Code, and Power of Attorney Act have already been proposed for the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, including five separate legislative proposals that Jeff Hawkins’s has either written or edited about topics that include:

  • landlord and tenant law
  • rights of a child born after a parent’s death
  • rights of creditors and estate beneficiaries to claim a deceased person’s assets
  • parents’ nomination of guardians for their young children
  • government rights to make claims against a deceased person’s assets

These constant legislative changes fix old problems that interfere with modern life and provide opportunities for people to enjoy life more freely. The legislature makes few significant changes in some years and dramatic overhauls of law in other years. Legislative changes may not always invalidate a person’s estate plan, but they may alter and the estate plan’s outcome in ways that the person could not anticipate and may not desire.

We try to update our readers about significant changes the law through this blog, but we also encourage people to meet with their estate planning lawyers and evaluate their estate plans at least once every five years.

Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers and active members of the Indiana State Bar Association and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Both lawyers are admitted to practice law in Indiana, and Jeff Hawkins is admitted to practice law in Illinois. Jeff is also a registered civil mediator, a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Indiana Bar Foundation;  a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Indiana Association of Mediators; and he was the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association.

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